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The best ever follow-up interview question: “How did you come up with the idea?"

I’m working on a blog post on job interviews — from the employer side of the desk. After all, there are thousands of “how-to” articles, blog posts, and advice on “acing the interview” from a candidates viewpoint. But, how about “acing the interview” as employer, while at the same time providing a great candidate experience?

In writing/researching the topic, I’ve reached out to an incredible network of thought leaders and practitioners, including winners of the Candidate Experience Award. (Stay tuned, I’ll be publishing that article soon with revealing stories and advice).

One of the thought leaders I contacted is George Bradt, Managing Director, PrimeGenesis. George is a frequent guest on TotalPicture Radio. His bestselling book, The New Leader's 100-Day Action Plan: How to Take Charge, Build Your Team, and Get Immediate Results should be on every HR manager’s, recruiter’s, and executive’s bookshelf.

I most recently interviewed George In April of this year, discussing his latest book First-Time Leader, Foundational Tools for Inspiring and Enabling Your New Team. George cleverly penned the book with Gillian Davis, a first-time leader who grew up in the executive search business. You’ll find the podcast interview in the Leadership Channel of TotalPicture Radio. He is a prolific author and writer, contributing a weekly column, "The New Leader’s Playbook" to Forbes.com. And one more thing… George Bradt owns the executive onboarding space.

Below, verbatim, is the response I received from George. 

The only three true job interview questions are:

  1. Can you do the job?

  2. Will you love the job?

  3. Can we tolerate working with you?

That’s it. Those three. Think back, every question you’ve ever posed to others or had asked of you in a job interview is a subset of a deeper in-depth follow-up to one of these three key questions.  Each question may be asked using different words, but every question, however it is phrased, is just a variation on one of these topics: Strengths, Motivation, and Fit.

If you’re the one doing the interviewing, get clear on what strengths, motivational and fit insights you’re looking for before you go into your interviews.

Then deploy the best ever follow up question: “How did you come up with the idea?"

One man I was interviewing claimed to have grown his brand in Austria +30%.  I probed:

“How did you accomplish that result?”

“We launched a new advertising campaign.”

“Tell me about the advertising”

[He did.]

“Tell me about the underlying insight.”

[He did.]

“How did you come up with the idea?”

“Actually, I didn’t. The agency did.”

“OK.  Tell me how you worked with the agency.”

“I didn’t.  It was the global agency.”

“OK.  What was your role in the advertising?”

“We customized it for Austria.”

“Tell me about that customization.”

[He did.]

“Tell me about the underlying insight.”

[He did.]

“How did you come up with the idea?”

“Actually, I didn’t.  The regional agency did.”

“OK.  Tell me how you worked with the regional agency.”

“I didn’t.  They were managed out of Brussels.”

“OK.  Tell me what you did?”

“We did the local media.”

“Tell me about the local media.”

[He did]

“Tell me about why it worked.”

[He did]

“How did you come up with the idea?”

“Actually, I didn’t.  The media agency did.”

“OK.  Tell me how you worked with the media agency.”

“I didn’t.  They were managed out of Zurich.”

As far as I could tell, this guy hadn’t done anything beyond being in the right place at the right time.  The question “How did you come up with the idea?” gave me what I needed to get below the surface of the results and his understanding of the results to get at what the candidate had actually done or not done.

 

Comment by Anna Brekka on June 2, 2014 at 12:18pm

Very clever - thank you for sharing Peter 

Comment by Keith Halperin on June 3, 2014 at 7:51pm

@Peter: I agree with 1 & 3:

The only three true job interview questions are:

  1. Can you do the job?

  2. Will you love the job?

  3. Can we tolerate working with you?

IMHO is irrelevant because:

A. They don't have the job yet, so how do they know (even if they think they do)?

B) Sooner or later, the answer will most probably become a"no".

c) We're not paid to love what we do.

Keep Blogging,

kh

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